1941 to 1942: Getting Organized

1941 to 1942: Getting Organized

Timeline Image: 
FDR inauguration 1944

April 1942

Glenn Seaborg arrives in Chicago and starts work on developing an industrial-scale plutonium separation and purification process. Percival Keith of the Kellogg Co. begins designing a gaseous diffusion pilot plant.

April 1942

Enrico Fermi relocates to the Chicago Met Lab. He builds an experimental pile in the Stagg Field squash courts with a projected k value of 0.995, then begins planning the construction of the world's first man-made critical pile, to be called CP-1. Fermi's efforts now shifts from demonstrating feasibility to securing graphite and uranium of adequate purity and in sufficient quantity to build the reactor.

May 23, 1942

S-1 program leaders discuss priorities. James B. Conant urges proceeding with *all* options for producing fissionable material simultaneously: gaseous diffusion, centrifuge, Electromagnetic Separation, and plutonium breeding using both graphite and heavy water reactors. He argues that redundant development will reduce the time to successful production to the shortest possible time, regardless of cost.

February 1942

Arthur H. Compton asks Gregory Breit to coordinate physics research on fast neutron phenomena. At this time available experimental data on all aspects of fast neutron reactions and fission is extremely limited and imprecise. Theoretical techniques are also rudimentary.

January 19, 1942

Pres. Roosevelt approves the production of an atomic bomb. Arthur H. Compton creates the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago to act as a consolidated research center. He transfers work on "uranium burners" (reactors) to it. J. Robert Oppenheimer organizes a program on fast neutron theoretical physics at the University of California at Berkeley.

December 6, 1941

Vannevar Bush holds a meeting in Washington to organize an accelerated research project. Arthur H. Compton remains in charge. Harold Urey is appointed to develop gaseous diffusion and heavy water production at Manhattan, NY; Ernest O. Lawrence will investigate electromagnetic separation at the University of California at Berkeley; and Eger Murphree will develop centrifuge separation and oversee engineering issues. James B. Conant advocates pursuing Pu-239, but no decision on this is made.